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Imperatives of potable water supply…. the way forward!

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POTABLE water supply in Lagos is faced with two challenges – population and power supply.

   The exponential population growth of Lagos State in the last 3 decades, presently at about 20 million, and projected to hit 29 million by 2020, will make Lagos the third largest megacity after Beijing and Mumbai.  Water demand at that time will be 733 million gallons per day (mgd) from its current water demand of 540 million gallons per day.

    As at today, total installed water production capacity is 210 million gallons per day; higher than that of the Ghana Water Corporation serving the entire country of Ghana!   If we had constant power supply (24/7) from the national grid, and production plants operate at 100 per cent capacity (an impossible proposition), Lagos will still face a water deficit of 330 million gallons per day!  That is, 11 million people out of the 20 million (at 30 gallons per day per capita) will still not have access to potable water.  The current proliferation of boreholes in Lagos is a testament to this reality! 

    There is thus the urgent need to address this proliferation by quick provision of potable water as it carries two clear and present dangers for the Environment, and Health.  Imminent environmental dangers include salt water intrusion from the Atlantic Ocean (Lagos being a Littoral State) into ground water (aquifers).  On the long term, water from boreholes across the State will become salty!   This is already occurring along the Lekki/ Victoria Island belt.  Second danger being possibility of land subsidence occurrences (land collapse due to depletion of underground water).  Health concern of domestic boreholes stems from the high water table in Lagos. Most boreholes are shallow, thereby abstracting water from unconfined aquifer which is prone to septage and other forms of surface pollution, with attendant health risks.  

    Bold steps are urgently required to address this situation.  

To meet the current shortfall and projected water demand, the Lagos Water Corporation developed a Water Master plan in 2010 as a “Road Map” to take Lagos to 745 million gallons per day (our target by year 2020). The estimated cost for the development of water infrastructure to provide water for all is about $3.5 billion!  The reality of this investment requirement  is that the State government cannot single handedly execute the Water Master Plan without   other demanding sectors such as Health, Education, Security, Social services, etc.; suffering .  To undertake such, the State would need to divert every naira that comes into her coffers to the water sector for the next 2½years!  Realizing this is not feasible, the State government has embraced Public Private Partnership (PPP) scheme as a veritable strategy for accelerated infrastructure development using private capital.

    It is pertinent to state at this point that the PPP policy thrust of the government as a strategy for accelerated delivery of water infrastructure differs much from “Privatization” as the government is not selling off or divesting its interest in water assets, on the contrary, it’s an instrument to acquire water assets at the end of the concession period.  It may be wondered, why the involvement of the private sector in the provision of a commodity as sensitive as “Water”? 

    Though concern about water affordability by the vulnerable segment of the society with the involvement of the private sector has come up, to address this, other State agencies are involved in all PPP transactions: Office of PPP (to ensure best value for money); Public Procurement Agency (to ensure transaction transparency); and Water Regulatory Agency (to ensure protection of investors and the Public).  Furthermore, a commercial mechanism to safeguard the vulnerable segment of society is “Cross-subsidization”; whereby the more affluent segment of the society will consume more water and pay the full commercial value for water; indirectly subsidizing the vulnerable segment of the society.  For LWC to achieve the objective of water-for-all, it is imperative for potable water to be treated as an economic good rather than a social service due to added value from water treatment chemicals, electricity, labour, etc, to convert raw water to potable drinking water.   Potable water being available to all, health costs will drastically reduce (Cost the nation $191 million on treatment of diarrhoea alone in 2012; and $2.5 billion on premature death), with corresponding impact on the economy through an improved work force.

    Whilst population grew exponentially, water infrastructure did not grow in tandem with population during the years of military rule. 

In line with the Lagos Water Master Plan is the ongoing construction of Adiyan phase 2 (70 million gallons per day capacity), which is being funded by the State.   Incidentally, Adiyan 2 is coming 23 years after Adiyan 1 due to the high cost of water infrastructure! 

    We need to develop additional six (6) large similar water schemes for Lagos State to attain water sufficiency.  

    A 50 mgd Yewa water scheme to serve the Badagry/Lagos axis is also under negotiation with the private sector under a Build Own Operate & Transfer (BOOT) scheme as a concession with amortization over 30 years.  This will serve the Badagry / Lagos axis.   Similarly, the Odomola water scheme, ultimate capacity of 210mgd to be developed in three phases, is also presently being worked on; to serve the Epe /Victoria Island axis; reputed to be the fastest growing region in West Africa with an annual growth rate of about 8 per cent.

    LWC today, with an installed total capacity of 210 mgd faces challenges of poor power supply from the grid; which often times, when available, damage Electro-mechanical equipment (submersible pumps, Transfer pumps, Chemical Dosing pumps, Air blowers, etc.) through continuous voltage spikes from the grid. For optimal service delivery, production needs to be continuous; thereby building up nominal pressure in the water mains for uninterrupted supply.    Prohibitive cost of diesel (4kobo/litre of water produced) makes alternative power solution unviable at current tariffs. It is instructive to note that no State Water Agency in the country is able to recover cost at the unsustainable tariffs which operate nationwide.  Lagos State government has taken a proactive step in addressing this challenge by the construction of 12.15MW Independent Power Plant (IPP) dedicated to supplying power to Adiyan and Iju waterworks, and their raw water pumping station at Akute.  Further to this, has provided power to 4 of our 48 mini water works (Dolphin, Onikan, Ikeja, and Alausa water plants); while an IPP is under construction to supply power to the Lekki, VI Annex, Saka Tinubu, and Alexander mini water works.  The remaining 40 mini waterworks are subject to the vagaries of the national grid supply!  Consequently The LWC Master plan incorporates power solution with each of the proposed water schemes.

•Holloway, an engineer, is MD, Lagos Water Corporation



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